There are many factors today that contribute to the growing aging population of the workforce. Facts show that due to losses in 401K’s, loss of other assets, rising healthcare costs, the underfunding of Social Security, the rising cost of living and a variety of other factors are reasons for a rise in the age of the worker. We are also getting older as a society which means people are working longer.
Does this increase in the average age of workers affect workers compensation in any way?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that in 1988 there were 15 million people ages 55 and above in the workforce. In 2008, that number grew to 28 million. They believe by 2018, the number will increase to 40 million.
There are often great advantages to having an older employee. They bring maturity, wisdom and many times a greater sense of loyalty and responsibility. However, there are also risks that come with them as well. Increased workers compensation costs are one of the greatest issues facing employers because of the aging worker.
Although the older worker files less workers compensation claims than the younger employee, most the time they are out much longer with a more severe injury which in turn costs the company more money. Sprains, strains and repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel are the biggest workers compensation claims for workers over the age of 55.
There is no simple solution to dealing with the rising age of the worker other than to prepare. Many employers are not adequately prepared or even aware of the health and safety risks that older workers present.
What are some suggestions to employers to help educate and protect the older worker?
- There needs to be very good lighting
- Invest in slip resistant floors
- Create chronic disease management programs which will also benefit younger workers
- Identify trip and fall hazards and check on a regular basis anything that may be a red flag!
- Safety programs should be implemented.
- Educate yourself on how to deal with injured workers who are also on Medicare.
- Come up with effective return to work ethics.
- Be careful in selecting your insurance company and make sure you understand their philosophy in the aging population
- Don’t believe all injured workers want to stay out of work. Most would actually like to go back under the right working conditions.
- Consider making “reasonable accommodations” for the worker to return.
- Understand the law when it comes to injured employees. Be aware of age discrimination issue and laws.
The rising age of the worker is only going to continue. It is vital to understand how to deal with sticky workers compensation issues and a variety of other legal matters regarding the aged worker.
If you or one of your loved ones have suffered an injury at work regardless of your age and believe that you have not been treated fairly, please contact Colorado’s workers’ comp attorney R. Mack Babcock for a free consultation to obtain benefits afforded to you under the law.